ROWW’s Family Continues to Grow

On May 13, 2013, we published a blog entry titled “Gone,” sharing a story one of our friends had written about the Joplin tornado.  Little did we know that 18 days later, a similar tornado would strike Oklahoma leaving a community desperate for help.

That week had been plagued with tornadic activity throughout the Midwest, and we’d coordinated to have spotters in the area keeping our team up to date on the nature of the storms.  We were monitoring in live-time through various networks when the tornado struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma. Immediately knew we needed to start preparing a relief team to deploy to the area.


A lot goes into preparing for a mission, and much of that revolves around what the needs of the area are going to be and the equipment that will be required in order to assist the communities. For Oklahoma, we knew that much of the destruction was based on structural damage and debris, which prompted a call for various tools to accomplish meeting those needs.  We were able to connect with some amazing people, who went above and beyond providing us with the necessary equipment and tools to reach out in the most effective way.  This blog entry is dedicated to those individuals who went above and beyond to help us reach out.

Before we touched down in Oklahoma, our partner, STIHL, immediately began connecting us with a local dealer to have equipment waiting when we landed.  This eliminated the need to transport our own, essentially saving precious time.  Our first connection was with Smith Farm and Garden of Oklahoma City, where we had the pleasure of working with Koty McKee, the owner of the dealership.  Once Koty learned about ROWW and what we’d set out to do, he urgently sprung into action. Upon our arrival, Koty and his team, Geoff Smith and Tracy Littlehead had everything staged and ready to go upon our arrival.  This team went beyond what we ever could have expected, by getting a list of tools that far exceeded our goals.  They provided extra equipment, hand tools, repair tools, and many other products that were essential in how we were able to reach the residents and assist them with digging out of the debris.


Smith Farm and Garden displayed a true sense of community when they stepped beyond a business selling tools for profit and became the neighbor lending a hand to those in need.  They were truly happy to donate the tools they knew they could to affect the lives of those who desperately needed help.  Thousands of dollars worth of equipment was provided with no questions and no expectations, except that we set out to fulfill the mission by reaching out.  It was an honor to work with such integrity, compassion, and friendliness during a time of distress.  Our sincerest thanks, Smith Farm and Garden, on behalf of ROWW and on behalf of the Oklahoma communities we were able to reach because of you.

The ROWW team then began working in Shawnee, Oklahoma. We were more than adequately equipped with exactly what we needed as far as smaller tools, but realized we still had a need for larger equipment to help clear debris.  We stopped by a John Deere dealership to speak with the owner, Jayne Grissom, to see if they would be able to meet our needs.


Not only were the kind people at John Deere able provide us with equipment and a mini dump truck, but some of the John Deere team came out into the field to work with ROWW. Kevin Adkins and Brian Crider are service technicians from the dealership who were on scene lending a hand as well as being available to service equipment or tools should there have been a need.  James Bell, a service writer; along with Justin Dailey a parts specialist; assisted us with keeping our chain saws and equipment functioning at optimal performance.  Tony Kozel, the store manager, secured the heavy equipment we used for debris removal. Lance Bienhoff, a parts manager; also came out from the John Deere team and operated the equipment for ROWW after hours.

Grissom’s John Deere of Shawnee, Oklahoma, displayed a true sense of community by donating the equipment and manpower that positively affected the lives of those who found themselves in desperate need.  This great group of people made extraordinary personal sacrifices to assist our team, and having them there operating heavy equipment was like having an additional team, which sped up the relief process by leaps and bounds.  It was an honor to work with such integrity, compassion, and friendliness during a time of distress. Our sincerest thanks, John Deere of Shawnee, Oklahoma, on behalf of ROWW and on behalf of the Oklahoma communities we were able to reach because of you.


We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to partner with two great businesses while serving the Oklahoma communities.  Without great people coming together in these ways, we would be unable to complete such a successful mission.


To: Our Heroes

June 30, 2013 was a day filled with heroism. Nearly 200 firefighters from across the nation battled a raging fire in the city of Yarnell, Arizona. Elite, multi-skilled teams of firefighters called “hotshots,” were strategically battling the fire. Prescott’s own, Granite Mountain Hotshots, were one of the crews working diligently to protect the surrounding Yarnell community from the rapidly spreading fire.

yarnell-fire-3photo courtesy of

No one could’ve ever have imagined the tragedy that would occur that day when 19 of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots found themselves trapped by the fire after winds had shifted direction.  They immediately deployed their survival shelters, but gave their lives on the mountain that Sunday afternoon.  One surviving member, Brendan McDonough, survived after he had been assigned to be the lookout for the crew and was not in the immediate area with his team.


photo courtesy of Charles Sharp,  a Hotshot Firefighter

As a group of first responders, this tragedy struck to our core.  We immediately felt a deep sense of loss for our brothers and wanted to come up with a way to thank them for who they were, the brave lives they lived, and the sacrifices they made protecting others and their communities.  The publicity will fade while the families try to cope with the loss of these heroes. We want their legacy to continue and the brave men to be remembered as Fathers, Husbands, Brothers, and Sons who loved their families and whose heroic bravery was extraordinary.

Beginning today, we’re asking for your help.  We are asking people to write letters to the families, to the survivor Brendan McDonough, as well as the men who gave their lives; leaving memoirs for the loved ones to reflect upon lives lived in sacrifice of others. We ask that you keep the letters 500 words or less due to the potential volume of letters the families could be receiving.  We’ve included a sample letter of our own:

Dear Mrs. Steed & Children,

We would like to take this time to send our sincerest condolences for the loss of your Husband and Father.  We can’t imagine how difficult this time is for each one of you.  We thank you for your loving support of Jesse as a Granite Mountain Hotshot as well as your personal sacrifices, for it is the loving family whose support propels the success of such a hero.  We are thankful for his service as a United States Marine, we are proud to stand up in remembrance of a great American Hero who consistently made sacrifices for the safety of others.  We’ve included a personal salute to Jesse below.


Dear Captain Steed,

Thank you, brother, for the sacrifice you made protecting the lives and homes of many.  We are forever grateful for the commitment you gave to your family as a Husband and Father, to your community as a Granite Mountain Hotshot, and to your Nation as a US Marine.  We’ll forever remember what you have done.  Rest in peace Captain.



Reach Out Worldwide

A disaster relief team of Firefighters, EMT’s, Doctors, Nurses, and support staff.

For detailed backgrounds of each of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots, you can view them through the following link:


 A Tribute of Thanks3


You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter for continued updates on this project.

Create Your Survival Plan

Disaster can happen anywhere, it can strike at any time, and it leaves countless people unprepared for a survival situation.  Our goals in disaster relief involve helping communities recover after a devastating disaster, but our goal is also to give you the tools to help prepare for yourselves and your families.

This blog entry is designed to help you begin planning for your potential risks. The following is a list designed to help you create a written survival plan.  You can follow our format or create one of your own, the important thing is to have a plan.

      1. Risks: write down your local risks (tornado, hurricane, flood, wildfire, earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, drought, house fire, gas leak, etc)

      2.Emergency Alerts: Do some research and write down what local emergency alerts are in place (how you know when you are in danger), and be sure that your home alert systems are up to date (carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms, weather radio etc)

       3. Name/Needs List: when making a survival plan, special considerations need to be made for each family member. Ages, dietary needs, medication & medical equipment, people with disabilities, elderly, pets or service animals, nursing mothers, infant care, check with local agencies to determine if your household pet or service animal will be accepted. List names and ages of family members in the home as well as special medications or needs.

Example: Adrian~6 years old, diabetic, insulin

                    Opal~86 years old, osteoporosis & high blood pressure, needs walker, blood pressure medication, latex allergy

      4. Family Emergency Plan: Create a Family Emergency plan detailing what steps you will take if disaster strikes. You can fill one out and print here

      5. Include your pets in your survival plan: Take some steps ahead of time to prepare for them, don’t leave them behind in an emergency disaster situation.

      6. Shut off your utilities: It’s important that you know how to safely shut off your home’s utilities in case of emergency. Contact your local natural gas company to learn how to safely shut off your home’s gas , as each company has different meters and different methods. Locate the shut off valve for the water line that enters the house, if valves are rusted or broken, be sure to replace them.  Make sure you do not turn your water back on until authorities have given the ok, as cracked lines can contaminate drinking water. Locate your electrical circuit box, shutting off all small circuits before the large, main circuits.  Write down the location of your utilities and shut off instructions, so when you need to access this list you can do it quickly.

      7. Plan your escape routes: Draw out a floor plan of your home with 2 escape routes from each room.  Make sure you practice drills with your family and that children understand the escape routes and plan.  If you need assistance developing an escape plan for the home, contact your local fire department and ask them if they would be willing to assist you in developing a plan.

      8. Survival Kit: locate a place in your home to store your survival kit.  Write down where that will be, and begin gathering supplies to store there.  Make a list of items you have already gathered for your kit so that you can keep track of items that still need to be added.

      9. Plan away home: many people find themselves away from home when disaster strikes.  Create a similar plan for the office, places of worship, your car, camper, boat, places of recreation, or anywhere you frequent where you could find yourself in an emergency situation.

     10. Family/Friends/Neighbors: create a buddy system with your family, friends, and neighbors.  Share your emergency contact information with your buddy in the event that your family can’t reach you following a disaster; give your family your buddy’s contact information as well.  Make a list of names and phone numbers of potential buddies and contact them about forming the buddy survival system.


Not long ago, we were preparing for my son’s Birthday party and I was in the garage with my husband while we filled helium balloons for all of the kids.  My job was to cut the string to tie to the balloons.  While standing there, I noticed this uniquely woven belt with bright colors hanging neatly over some tool bins next to the helium tank.  I had never noticed the dirty and tattered belt before, so I asked him, “where did this belt come from?”  Having traveled to many places over the years including Afghanistan, Sweden, Germany, along with many places in the US, he replied “I picked it up along the way in my travels.”  It was a strange response for him. Normally he’ll tell the story behind something he’s picked up along the way, in fact when he had been to Afghanistan, he told me stories of many young children who sold him some unique gifts. I found it strange, so I tried joking with him about it guessing a few people it may have belonged to, all the while truly having no idea, then he responded “it belonged to a little girl in Joplin,” a little girl, who unfortunately died in the wreckage of one of the deadliest tornadoes in US history, May 22, 2011.

IMG_6209photo: school destroyed by the Joplin Tornado. 


That hot and humid that afternoon in May; families had been to church, many had been enjoying a relaxing day before the workweek was set to begin; some were enjoying an afternoon nap, while others were busy working at the local hospital or delivering pizzas.  It seemed like a typical Sunday afternoon in the smaller town of Joplin, Missouri, a town with a little over 50,000 people.

For local residents, tornado warnings are a regular occurrence in spring and summer, and that Sunday felt like many others, but what Mother Nature had in store was tragically different.  A little after 3pm, thunderstorm warnings began infiltrating television stations, followed by tornado watches, and multiple tornado warnings.   Several funnel clouds were spotted in the surrounding areas, and at 5:41 an EF-5 tornado touched the ground just outside Joplin. The raging tornado was a mile wide and moved at a speed 35-40 miles per hour; with winds between 225-250 miles per hour it flattened 25% of the city.

IMG_6213photo: a neighborhood destroyed

Response teams immediately began filtering into the city to search for people who were missing, dig through the wreckage to pull people from under their homes, and bring supplies for the displaced families who lost everything.  Doctors, nurses, and EMT’s from all over the nation came to aid the community knowing the local hospital was destroyed and an injured community awaited aide.

IMG_6197photo: the hospital in Joplin following the tornado in 2011

There are so many tragic stories surrounding this awful disaster, surrounding every disaster.  There are heroic stories where people came together to rescue those trapped by debris.  There are miraculous stories of survival.  All of which are solid reminders that disaster can strike anywhere, for anyone, at any time.

 Story by: F. Jackson, wife of a first responder

Reach Out Worldwide’s goal, as a team of first responders, is to help communities prepare for the threats disasters pose, educating and providing ways that each of you can best protect your families in the event that you are faced with a disaster situation.

We have been providing survival kit tips and survival plan ideas for you for several months on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and we will continue to post weekly tips. We also want to do more by increasing awareness and sharing the tips in a centralized location, easy for you to access. This will mark the first blog in a series of blogs to begin to layout more detailed plans, which we hope will help you to prepare survival plans for yourselves/families.

Easter Close To Home

Each mission is unique, each mission changes circumstances for someone, and each mission changes something in the team. Good Friday was vastly different than our traditional disaster missions, but one none-the-less, that still made a difference both in the lives of those we helped, and in ours.  One of the fundamental foundations of Reach Out Worldwide is the drive to fulfill the needs of others during overwhelming circumstances.  Though we weren’t out in a disaster zone, we found a need locally that we felt compelled to meet.


For many children; too many, in fact; holidays are a reminder of the things they don’t have rather than a time of celebration and fun.  Emptiness often sits in place of cherished childhood traditions when families just don’t have the financial ability to provide. It was our goal this year to help change some of that in the lives of some really great kids.   We wanted them to have the best Easter experience they could have, so we partnered with the Mid Valley YMCA to put together a fun-filled event. With the help of donations from the community, Reach Out Worldwide brought stuffed animals, candy, and smiles to 50 preschool children.  They participated in an Easter egg hunt, won prizes, ate goodies, and showed that glimmer of hope that belongs in every child’s eyes.



The “The children were so amazing…They appreciated everything! Originally each child was going to participate in an ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ and the reward was 6 Jelly Beans a piece, but we wanted to give them a little more. We had stuffed animals, toys, candy and we brought a long some STIHL hats, I think the kids liked the hats the best!”  ~ROWW staffer 


The happiness, the smiles, something so seemingly simplistic to adults, really grows into so much more in the mind of a child.  We were able to see the light, the wonder, and hope in the eyes of these kids during this Easter event, mission accomplished.


 Here’s our first ever Newsletter: April Newsletter, we’re releasing it here this month.  You can sign up to receive them monthly on our home page at

Partners in STIHL

Springtime in the United States can present an opportunity for a variety of weather related disasters from tornadoes, to lightning storms, hail, high winds, and flooding.  The spring of 2011 was a season that changed the course of history for storm related tragedies.  April 25th, 2011, was the beginning of the largest tornado outbreak that had ever been recorded, which left catastrophic destruction in many states including Alabama.

 Immediately following the news of the tornado disaster that struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama; we pooled our resources and deployed a team to provide assistance in any way we may be needed. Upon arriving to Alabama, we knew we needed to purchase tools and equipment to help clear the debris that littered the streets, homes, and businesses.   Our goal was to get the best, most reliable tools possible, which is why chose the STIHL brand.  Many of our team members had used their products in the past, and knew that we could rely on them to do the job.


Shortly after our time in Alabama, we began an official partnership with STIHL, who had contacted us after having seen us utilizing their tools in Tuscaloosa.  STIHL has since provided us a variety of tools which are essential during our deployments, as well as important training for our teams to ensure we are using the equipment properly.


STIHL prides themselves on being a leader in the outdoor power tool industry, and their partnership with Reach Out Worldwide carries a reliable product into areas where quick and productive recovery is vital to the well-being of those affected by disaster.  When a tree has fallen on a person’s home, and they are trapped inside, top-notch chain saws are life savers.  When roads are covered by debris and victims are in desperate need of assistance, we can clear a path quickly and efficiently.  STIHL tools allow us to do just that.   A team with powerful tools by their side, are able to execute a successful mission.

“It’s not just about a good product, but it’s about making a difference with that product.”


Want to know more about our partnership with STIHL?  Visit their page

Reaching Out



It’s a chilly, rainy day in December and for Los Angeles, is a bit unique for an area plagued with sunshine and perfect temperatures.  The crew begins loading the trucks full of holiday gifts including children’s toys, stuffed stockings, and hygiene items for one of our local charities.

It’s not an overseas mission geared in disaster relief, not one where there are tents set up and triage stations.  It may not even appear to be a disaster at all, but the truth of the matter is there are personal disasters experienced by people in our own communities.  Disasters silent to the general public, ones not defined by shattered windows.  Instead, it’s a shattered home, a shattered heart, shattered lives stricken with abuse, neglect, illness, joblessness, poverty, and more circumstances beyond comprehension.  When the holiday season rolls around, families experiencing the effects of these personal disasters often experience a bleak outlook during a time that many tend to celebrate.  Parents lack the funds to provide gifts for their children, families are struggling to afford the basic necessities, which leaves a feeling of emptiness and lost hope.  We wanted to help make a difference in these lives.



During this time, ROWW partnered with as many local organizations as we could to help them gather presents and supplies and provide a bit of cheer during the holiday season. Thank you for all the wonderful support and help from our amazing volunteers, it was an honor to connect with so many great organizations that do such beautiful, selfless work.

When we head out to serve the people who find themselves in the midst of disaster, we often do not have the opportunity to understand what happened in the hearts of those we helped.  This holiday season, we were honored to receive some feedback from organizations we partnered with.  We thought we would share a few with you, so that you see what kind of impact your donation dollars and fundraising dollars are making in the lives of others.

“On behalf of our adolescent clients, Circle of Help Foundation would like to thank Reach Out Worldwide again for your continued support and contributions. Your donations of stockings filled with candy for every child, as well as personal grooming products for our adult clients made a brighter holiday seasons for the clients which we serve.” ~Circle of Help Foundation


  “On behalf of the Newton Police Activities League, I would like to sincerely thank you for making a donation of children’s toys which has been utilized in the Newton Area Toy Giveaway.  This year we were able to give toys to 820 children from our community.  It is only with generous gestures from large-hearted people like yourself that our Newton Police Activities League has been able to undertake and accomplish various community activities like this.” ~ Newton Police Activities League


“In my years working at Montecito Heights Recreation Center, I have never seen the people of the community so thankful for the gifts your organization brought us. And the gifts couldn’t have gone to more deserving and needing families then the ones that received them. For these families these were the only gifts they were going to receive this holiday season. Children crying, their faces streaming with tears of joy, is what makes this job all the more rewarding. And the parents, to be humbled by the act of kindness, to where I’m getting tear soaked hugs, means you not only helped out a couple of families, but uplifted the spirits of our entire community. “~ Montecito Heights Recreation Center 


Our sincere thank you to each one of our partners (visit our website for a list of current partners, our fundraising supporters, our donors, and followers.  We could not change lives if it weren’t for each one of you.


If you are new to Reach Out Worldwide, be sure you click the “About” button at the top of the page above the photos.  There you can learn where we started, who we are, and what we do.

We are bringing some exciting things your way in 2013! Our goal is centered around becoming a leader in worldwide disaster relief as well as incorporating what we do in our local and national communities.  We want to inspire people around the world to reach out, to get involved, and to be prepared for emergencies.  We also want to share more of what we’re doing with all of you who support us in so many ways, so that we can work together to impact and change lives.

You can see a variety of our Holiday 2012 photos on our Facebook page here: